Jose Mourinho has confirmed that Antonio Valencia, Nemanja Matic and Jesse Lingard are back in training, but this weekend’s game against Brighton & Hove Albion will come too soon for the Manchester United trio.
Valencia returned home from Tour 2018, presented by Aon, early after sustaining a suspected calf injury, while Matic did the same to undergo surgery in Philadelphia having picked up an injury at the World Cup with Serbia.
Lingard was also involved at the tournament in Russia, where he helped England reached the semi-finals, and hasn’t played for the Reds since the Emirates FA Cup final at the end of last season.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference at the Aon Training Complex on Friday afternoon, the boss confirmed the three players have been working on their fitness this week but are unlikely to be involved on Sunday at the Amex Stadium.
“Lingard, Matic and Valencia have been training with the team since yesterday [Thursday],” he told reporters.
“[They are] fully fit but not yet [ready] to play or even to be selected, I think, and that’s it.”
It means the Reds are again set to be without Sergio Romero, Diogo Dalot, Marcos Rojo and Ander Herrera, with Jose confirming after last week’s season-opening win over Leicester City that he didn’t expect them to be back against Brighton.
However, with nine days in between the two games, a number of United’s returning World Cup stars have had more preparation time on the training ground this week.
“Of course, some of the boys are in a better condition because before Leicester they trained just three days and after this long, good working week, normally they are in a better condition,” the boss added.
The Reds travel to the south coast to face a Brighton side who have strengthened their team well over the summer – and Jose feels United’s 1-0 defeat at the Amex Stadium back in May serves as a reminder of how tough it will be again for the Reds this weekend.
“Looking to the match, I think the best way to look at it is to remember that three months ago we lost 1-0 there.
“Chris [Hughton] is a great coach. Good players, good team, beautiful stadium, but difficult to play. They know how to play and they've kept the same team, they bought a few new players. I think the style is the same and the fact that they lost the first match [against Watford], obviously they are working for a reaction, working to improve their game, so a difficult match for us, but we are confident.
“The training was really, really good all week and we go to win, obviously. That is our main objective.”
HOW ARE BRIGHTON SHAPING UP?
The Seagulls will be looking for their first goal and point of the campaign after losing 2-0 away at Watford during the opening weekend.
Boss Chris Hughton will be without captain Bruno, after the veteran right-back was forced off early on at Vicarage Road with a hamstring injury. The Spaniard could be replaced by right-back Martin Montoya, who played with Andreas Pereira at Valencia last season and is yet to make his competitive debut for the Seagulls.
New signing Florin Andone (groin) and Colombian winger Jose Izquierdo (knee) will also miss out as a result of ongoing injury problems.
Record signing Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who went to the World Cup with Iran and was the top scorer in the Dutch Eredivisie last term, and Mali midfielder Yves Bissouma could make their full debuts after coming off the bench last weekend.
Brighton v United kicks off at 16:00 BST on Sunday and you can watch live build-up from the Amex Stadium from 14:00 BST on MUTV.